Stonehenge, nuclear fusion, and pepperoni: It’s the news from Britain

In late July, researchers announced that they knew where fifty of Stonehenge’s fifty-two sarsen stones came from: a spot fifteen miles away. 

Probably. It’s a good match, but they still need to eliminate some more places.

Sarsen? It’s a kind of sandstone. According to one dictionary, the word might be a variant on the phrase Saracen stone, which comes from the (local) Wiltshire dialect.  No, I have no idea either. I think we’d have had to be there at the time for it to make any kind of sense. Besides, the origin’s not definite anyway.

According to another dictionary, the stuff is also called Druid stone. None of which should matter to us but hey, it’s your own fault for letting me lead the way. 

What you probably wanted to know is that we’re talking about Stonehenge’s uprights, which weigh something in the neighborhood of twenty tons, and that’s before breakfast. After a full English (that’s a serious breakfast, since we’re defining things), you can add an easy 10% to that.. 

We’re also talking about the lintels and a few of the other stones. Basically, everything except the bluestones, which came from Wales, parcel post and cash on delivery. Boy, was that expensive.

Why have the experts figured out the location now? Back in 1958, while a crew was setting up three stones that had fallen over a century or so before, they discovered that one of the stones was cracked, so they drilled out a core and pinned the stone back together with a bolt. Sort of like gluing the handle back on that mug you really like, but on a larger scale.

That left them with a neatly drilled core, and a guy named Robert Phillips, um, kind of took it home, because why not? If he hadn’t, odds are someone would’ve thrown it away. He kept it as a souvenir, and sixty-odd years later he decided to send it back where it belonged. But what’s sixty-odd years when you’re talking about something 2,500 years old?

These days, no one’s allowed to mess with the stones, even if they mean well and are trying to figure out something important, so the core–now called the Phillips core–came as a real gift. It has been x-rayed, analyzed, and diagnosed with PTSD, and all the resulting information has been compared with local stone, and that’s how they found a geochemical match. 

Two of the stones don’t match. The theory is that they may have been the work of other builders. 

How do they know that when they can’t take chips from any of them? I have no idea.

*

Ten 15,000-year-old stone fragments have been found in Jersey and may be the earliest evidence of art in the British Isles. They were found near flint tools, hearthstones, and granite slabs. 

I have no idea what the granite slabs have to do with anything. I don’t keep any in my house, and I am of course typical of everybody in all ways, but life was different back then. Everyone kept granite slabs in their houses.

Dr. Silvia Bello of the Natural History Museum in London said it’s possible that the people who made the plaques weren’t particularly interested in the final product. 

“For us, art is something that we put on the wall, something that we can admire. For them it is more likely that the act of producing the engraving was the meaningful thing.”

That’s a way of saying that the art isn’t particularly pretty. To our eyes, anyway.

*

So much for the past. We’ll skip over the present. It hasn’t been a great year, so let’s peer into the future and pretend it’s going to be wondrous.

It will. Really it will.

New technology makes it possible to turn the ordinary brick into a battery that stores enough energy to power a small LED light. 

Okay, the brick doesn’t actually become a battery, it becomes a supercapacitor. The trick is to fill the brick’s cavities with conductive plastic nanofibers.

No, I didn’t understand a word of that either. Except for brick. I understand bricks. But forget the quibbly stuff. If this works, you could have solar panels or a wind turbine and store the power in your wall. 

The bricks don’t have the same power density as a lithium-ion battery, but the researchers are hoping they can increase it. If they can, it will be cheaper than batteries. And, as far as I can tell, less destructive.

*

A collaboration involving the European Union, the UK, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the US is building a nuclear fusion reactor in France. It’s not a commercial project. The idea is to demonstrate that it’s possible to contain temperatures of, oh, say 150 degrees Centigrade, with magnets. One of the magnets would be strong enough to lift an aircraft carrier. 

Look out for your belt buckle.

Okay, I left some countries off the list. Thirty-five are involved. 

If the process works, it could produce carbon-free energy from small amounts of seawater, with no possibility of meltdown and far less nuclear waste than fission reactors.

*

Okay, two news items from the present, because you can’t count on me to play fair. One isn’t even from Britain. 

First, a cycle cafe in Wales was refused planning permission.

Why is this news? Because the refusal was based on it not having enough parking spaces. For cars. On top of which, it’s not on a cycle route, and what’s a bike doing out in the real world anyway?

The owner says she’ll appeal.

Second, the U.S. is facing a pepperoni shortage

And you thought life could go on as usual, didn’t you?

60 thoughts on “Stonehenge, nuclear fusion, and pepperoni: It’s the news from Britain

  1. I understood brick. I’m just a simple Brit but the US running out of pepperoni seems like a big deal. A bit like if the UK ran out of bacon, which would be horrendous and definitely not ‘the full English’.

    Liked by 4 people

    • This is going to be difficult. Especially for the smaller ones that roll around in a big storm. You can probably tell I live near a beach, where the storms rearrange the stones each time. Tourists come and pick up souvenirs. The parish council tries to get them not to, because there are a lot of tourists. At one stone per tourist, sooner or later the beach disappears–or at least the pretty part of it does.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure about the cafe myself. My first instinct is yes, great idea. Then I thought about weather and how many people would use it how often. Then I decided that the people who wanted to run it could figure all that out without my help–and might even know what they’re doing. It does sometimes happen.

      Yeah, the wall power is amazing. Needs a little development, but what a thing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The new energy efficient technology is great, but simple CONSERVATION could go a long way. A friend built a big showcase house installed with all kinds of energy-saving inventions, when more could have been achieved, and less material wasted, if he just built SMALL. Smaller cars, smaller houses, a lot less travel by air, birth control–all simple, cheaper things we could do to help save this dying planet. Not enough emphasis on conservation. And who knows what the environmental downsides will be to all the fancy new stuff we manufacture for energy efficiency? More conservation., please.

        Liked by 3 people

        • My sense is that we need both–conservation and green sources of energy. I was interested in the brick as a storage device because one of the things holding back wind and solar power is storage. Whether the brick technology will lead anywhere I haven no idea.

          Liked by 1 person

            • I managed to miss that. I did read some discussion of using electric cars’ batteries to store power when they’re not being used. A lot of innovative thought seems to be going into it, but I don’t know if anyone’s really found the solution.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Feeling lazy today, so I just read through quickly, without – like you! – understanding some of it, till I got to the pepperoni. Ha! I thought I knew it all but I didn’t: “my” peperoni is with just one “p” and is a veggie (in 3 possible colours), yours with 2 “p”s is the pizza topping, not at all vegetarian….

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s funny how if you grow up with something, you don’t question it. A hundred years ago, when I was a kid, pizza came either plain (15 cents a slice) or with with pepperoni (25 cents), and it was sold by Italian guys in little pizza joints with windows out to the street. You could buy a slice and eat it as you walked. Since they were Italian, I never gave it a minute’s thought.

      Like

  3. Conservation AND green sources, yes. The thing I worry about with new technology is that people think, “Problem solved,” and that they can continue in their old ways.(If cars are more efficient, well, we can drive more! Get a bigger SUV!) Etc. Forgetting that a bigger, more efficient car or truck is still using more raw material. If the changes don’t come mainly in personal habits and conservation, all the man-made technology in the world won’t save us, I fear.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pepperoni shortage, you say? Oh dear.

    Now this news then, about the Henge, that’s interesting. When I was a boy I’d read article after article with bated breath until I realised they weren’t liable to ever solve anything conclusively outside the court of opinion, when it comes to history’s mysteries.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Are you sure your vegan correspondent isn’t talking about Pepproncini ? That appears (in the jars on the shelves near the olives and dill relish) to be some sort of pickles https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/chili-pepper-types/sweet-mild-chili-peppers/pepperoncini-chili-peppers/
    Oops – I guess they’re peppers. The only shortage I’ve encountered at the local drive-thru windows is a COIN shortage.

    “Saracen” (by Mr Google’s definitions)seems to deal with Middle Eastern people – is that some link with the sarsen stones on an “Ancient Aliens” sort of level? Are we back to the Lizard People ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • If we’re back to lizard people–as in the stones are only passing themselves off as stones, waiting until who knows when to jump out and take over the earth–then they’re very patient lizard people. With a seriously long-term plan.

      Lord G. translates peppers into Italian as peperoni. The peperoncini (one P in American Italian? two Ps?), then, would be little peppers.

      Like

    • I don’t think anyone’s worried about you carrying one home with you.

      These days, actually, they have it so cordoned off that you can’t get near them–except on the solstice, when you can go in and mingle with both stones the far edge of the New Age.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d like to get some of those bricks that store enough energy to power a small LED light. I’m thinking I could build a front garden wall with them and program them to do nice things, like create Christmas displays. Or, more likely, send shouty messages to my neighbours, like ‘PICK UP YOUR DOG POOP!’

    Liked by 2 people

  7. When you said that the stones were found in Jersey, I thought maybe they had been dumped there with Jimmy Hoffa – wrong Jersey, of course, but if you wanted to get rid of something, New Jersey’s a good place.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve been to Stonehenge–it’s an incredible structure. We weren’t allowed to get close to it, since it’s cordoned off, let alone get a rock sample to date. We did, however, have a nice lunch in the cafeteria–it’s quite the tourist hotspot now, something the druids probably never imagined!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Pingback: Stonehenge, nuclear fusion, and pepperoni: It’s the news from Britain — Notes from the U.K. – My History Chronicles

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